Side Event: The Human Rights Council for Newcomers

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.

19 June 2012

The side event was organised by WFUNA and Mandat International, within the framework of the NGO Committee on Human Rights of the Conference of NGOs, and was the first in a series of 3 briefings for newcomers to the Human Rights Council. Four speakers comprised the panel and shed light on how NGOs can interact more effectively with the Human Rights Council. The event was chaired by Irene Martinetti, Director of Programs at the World Federation of United Nations Associations's office in Geneva.

Engaging with the Council

Lidiya Grigoreva from the Civil Society Section of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights presented the 3 formal methods of engagement for NGOs with the Human Rights Council:

  1. Submit a written statement to HRC 2 weeks before session – submitted statements are referenced in Order of the Day
  2. Deliver oral statements at HRC (must register online)
  3. Organise side events

She mentioned that the Office has observed an increase in NGO participation over the past 2 years through these formal methods.  Ms Grigoreva also spoke about the resources available to NGOs: the HRC extranet, SMS alerts, the live HRC webcast and archived video recordings of sessions.

Tips for NGOs

Theodor Rathgeber from the Forum Menschenrechte (a network of 53 German NGOs) spoke of NGO participation as both an institutional element of the Human Rights Council and a right, and mentioned the inevitable frustration caused by the lack of immediate visible results in the Council.  His advice to NGOs was as follows:

  • Decide whether you will disseminate information or lobby
  • If you lobby, think about whether this will carry a risk
  • Make sure you are clear about what you are lobbying on
  • Consider working with mandate holders of the Special Procedures in order to have more impact
  • Try to combine lobbying efforts with other activities e.g. the organization of side event, the submission of a statement
  • Look at resolutions, statements etc from previous sessions to establish which NGOs and states share your concerns
  • Prepare in advance a 1-page summary about your NGO’s aims
  • Lobby states in the same region as the country you are concerned about
  • Make use of resources such as the UN library, other NGOs, assistants to Special Rapporteurs

Salvador Tinajero Esquivel from the Permanent Mission of Mexico encouraged NGOs to make the most of their visit to Geneva to interact with delegates, other NGOs, embassies etc.  He also recommended that NGOs talk to the owners of thematic resolutions to try to ensure that their issues are included, and to contact national media to draw attention to their lobbying efforts at the Human Rights Council and any activities that they organize.  Mr Esquivel concluded with the positive comment that NGOs have huge potential to develop international law.

Useful resources

Ursula Siegfried from Mandat International closed the briefing with a presentation of useful resources on the Human Rights Council for NGOs. Her list of useful resources can be found here.

See the photo gallery for this event here.

View the flyer for WFUNA's series of briefings on the Human Rights Council here

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